Hart to lead Ilsley into new chapter

MIDDLEBURY — Dana Hart has enjoyed the bright lights and excitement of the Big Apple for the past seven years. But she’s about to realize her longstanding dream of relocating closer to her Vermont family, thanks to her recent appointment as new director of Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library.
Hart, 28, has for the past three years served as administration manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas J. Watson Library. Prior to that, she was a worker in the map division of the New York Public Library. A graduate of Vassar College (English and Political Science), Hart did her Master’s studies in Art History at New York’s Hunter College. She also attended the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work at large institutions in New York,” Hart said during a Nov. 22 phone interview. “But I grew up in a medium-sized town (Northborough) in Massachusetts. I’m ready to be a part of a smaller community. I miss that.”
She fondly recalled her childhood days in a small library setting. It’s an atmosphere she believed she could rediscover at the Ilsley Library, which this past summer put out the call for a new top administrator. The Ilsley’s most recent director, Kevin Unrath, has left to accept a similar role at the Pierson Library in Shelburne.
“In a lot of ways, it feels like (work at the Ilsley) will bring me full circle, getting back into the kind of institution that got me excited about libraries to begin with,” she said.
Hart impressed during her recent interview with Ilsley Library trustees. She emerged as the board’s top choice for a post that will take on added importance and responsibilities during the next few years. Hart will join trustees in generating community support for a major renovation and expansion plan for the library. The estimated $9.6 million plan recommends removing the library’s two most recent additions and erecting a new, 14,000-square-foot structure onto the back of the original, 1924 Ilsley building.
The addition and related renovations would give the current 19,000-square-foot library a net gain of 6,600 square feet and allow it to better serve its growing customer base — particularly the town’s youngest readers.
Ilsley Library Board of Trustees Chairperson Catherine Nichols is confident Hart will be a big help in advocating for the Ilsley improvements.
“A proven leader, Dana Hart has a deep understanding of the changing role of libraries,” Nichols said. “She’s articulate, professional, and forward-thinking. The trustees anticipate working closely with her as we plan for Ilsley Library’s future.”
Hart managed an office renovation project at the Watson Library, so she knows what it’s like to organize and promote a construction plan.
She looks forward to helping make the Ilsley project a reality.
“It’s exciting and invigorating,” Hart said of the Ilsley Library’s improvement plans. “I understand the current building is in need of a renovation and expansion, and the trustees have obviously put forward a plan to address the changes that need to be made. I really look forward to conveying the value of the renovations to the community, to listening to the community and staff as they discuss what they really need and want, and then working with everyone to make it happen.”
Hart is eager to meet her colleagues and library patrons when she officially begins her role on Jan. 3.
“When I was there, and throughout the interview process, the staff and the community members welcomed me and were so kind,” Hart said. “It’s been really amazing to meet the few people I have gotten to know, and I’m excited to meet everyone else.”
She’s found her work at The Met to be fulfilling, but is ready to begin a new chapter in her professional life.
“I have really enjoyed the work I have done with development at The Met; it’s a great way to get to know core supporters and people who care about the community and the institution,” she said. “I look forward to doing that at Ilsley.”
Hart has some relatives in Williston, while her partner counts family in Lincoln. Plans call for them to temporarily stay in Lincoln while they sort out more permanent housing.
Asked to describe her leadership style, Hart said, “I think the most important thing to do as a manager or when anyone is joining a new institution is to listen and learn from the people who are there already, and to be open-minded and work with them going forward.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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